The fireplace between two corner cupboards that keep
her Willow-pattern plates free of dust, is ready for fresh coal to be lit
before her first cup of tea.
Her larder stores vegetables closest to the ground while cheese, butter
and left-overs sit on a shelf where cool air filters through a vent
eye-level to a nosy five year old. Tidy rows of tinned fish, peas
and carrots line up above the vent next to unopened packets of digestives
some plain, some with chocolate.
Carbolic soap wafts from the concrete-floored scullery down a step
from the main level. Red and white gingham hides pots and pans
under the sink where white shirts are scrubbed before they swim
in the boiler on a gas stove.
Brass ornaments shine with the grease of her elbow on a dark walnut
mantel-piece. Grandad clips his nails on the brocade covered
dining table, and Granny still dusting, asks why he has to do it there.
There are no fingerprints on the polished banister up the stairs that carry
her laboured breath towards her bedroom. Scent of white gardenia
surrounds down pillows and french lace curtains raining from a bay window
behind the dresser that holds a box of pins, earrings and hairbrush
on a green tray painted with peonies.
This sanctuary reveals everything French in style but nothing of her years
in France. Her first born blown to dust as he slept in his pram, the grave
of her first husband, the food she delivered to the trenches where she met
an English soldier, married him and set up shop in St. Cecile, her father’s
rage when she told him they were emigrating to England, the well
he almost pushed her down.
The door to every room kept closed and private
contains its own victory.